I was listening to 1A, the NPR program, yesterday and they were talking about the moratorium on evictions coming to an end. When I was 19, my sister and I got evicted from the apartment we shared. It was our own behavior that brought this on. We had a place to go. Back home to our Mom where she still lived in our family home. We had a huge safety net that perhaps we didn’t deserve. But today as I imagined all the people being kicked to the curb through no fault of their own, the word that kept popping in my head was HOW? HOW can I take one moment of self-pity for what I may have lost this past year? HOW can I take anything for granted? HOW can our government let this happen? HOW can I help? HOW can the big banks who we bailed out all those years ago not step up to help the millions of humans most directly effected by this pandemic? Most landlords need the rent to pay the banks, so they alone can’t be expected to just forgive rent payments unless the banks forgive their debts. HOW can I be so sure that’s the right thing to do?
We are so fortunate. Privileged. I mean, just look at the view out our kitchen window. Even on a gloomy day it’s a postcard. How can I not take a moment to appreciate this and be grateful.
My friend, Lauren Crane, turned me on to the Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday and Stephen Hanselman. Each day there’s a new quote from one of the stoic philosophers (Seneca, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius). The authors then interpret those bits of wisdom as they might apply in today’s time. I got the book in January and each month there’s a theme of sorts. December is all about death. Acknowledging its inevitability and – as the old adage reminds us – trying to live each day as if it’s your last. My cousin volunteers for “Text Crisis line” a suicide hotline for LGBTQ teens (text 741741 for a crisis counselor 24/7). Happy to report he saved a young life recently and I’m sure he’s saved many more just by being on the other end of the phone but this one was imminent and he was able to get help sent over before it was too late. Thank God for him and people like him. He does it for two reasons. The obvious one; that he wants to help but it also takes his mind off his own ailments. He was diagnosed with HIV/AIDs nearly 40 years ago and back then AIDS was more often a death sentence. He never thought he’d be rounding the bend to 60 but while years of anti-viral cocktails may have kept him alive, they did a number on his body and he’s in constant pain from neuropathy. Still, he never complains. He takes each day as it comes, gives back when he can and is always there for a hug, a laugh (lots of a ’em) and never fails to say “I love you” more than once. My sister recently spent six physically and emotionally agonizing months on chemo following a colon cancer diagnosis just before her 60th birthday. Though her prognosis is excellent, this was a wake up call. Anyone who knows anyone close to them who is going through or has gone through a life-threatening illness, unthinkable pain and loss, or is just living with a disease we can never fully understand, will recognize that feeling of helplessness. Of wishing you had super powers to make it all go away. Of not knowing what to say. We make it about us. I have to sit with that for a while …
For now, I just want to circle back to the one thing that keeps me grounded. It’s not new and appears in many a cliché but I believe it’s in no danger of losing it’s power to remind us how to live. GRATITUDE. With that, I’d like to share one of my favorite songs by one of my favorite people, Grammy award winning composer and fellow member of The Yellow Room Gang, David Barrett.
A Grateful Life, by David Barrett